Donated photo. Current HCC student pictured left, Lucas Evanko watches as HCC fish and wildlife graduate Blake Ledbetter holds a bat. Ledbetter recently graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree and is now employed at the University of Georgia as a bat technician.

Did you know there are 17 species of bats found in North Carolina? Did you also know that capturing and handling these creatures could be dangerous? According to Haywood Community College fish and wildlife instructor Dr. Wally Woods, the number of wildlife jobs relating to bat research and capture has spiked significantly due in part to outbreaks of the White Nose Syndrome, which is fatal to these mammals.

“This summer alone, five of HCC’s recent fish and wildlife graduates went on to work in bat related positions and another is beginning a bat related master’s program in graduate school,” Woods explains. “Learning capture techniques is a highly marketable as well as practical skill for land managers and technicians in the modern wildlife management age to possess. By being able to demonstrate proper capture and handling techniques, our students will be more competitive for these new jobs.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the last 55 years, of the rabies infections acquired in the U.S., 70% were attributed to bats.

In order to provide this unique training to his students, Woods received a mini-grant from the HCC Foundation to cover the cost of a rabies vaccine, which is administered as a three part series. His position at HCC and as a wildlife biologist means that Woods is in a profession that is at a higher risk of exposure to rabies. By receiving the pre-exposure vaccine, Woods can safely handle and trap bats and in turn provide valuable training procedures to students.

“Rabies is a deadly but preventable disease,” Woods explains. “The peace of mind of not having to worry about rabies is priceless.”

HCC’s Foundation provides funds and fosters relationships to support students, faculty and programs. The purpose of mini-grants is to enhance instruction and student outcomes, as well as to provide experiential learning where students acquire hands-on experiences complementary to classroom instruction.

Spring registration is currently underway. For assistance with career counseling, please call 828-627-2821. For more information about registration, visit haywood.edu or email hcc-advising@haywood.edu.

For more information about the HCC Foundation or to give to the HCC Foundation, please call 828-627-4544 or email pahardin@haywood.edu.